Mauled Canadian autobelt gets green energy lift

Mon Nov 1, 2010 1:57pm EDT
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By Susan Taylor and Nicole Mordant

OTTAWA/VANCOUVER (Reuters) - For years the Windsor Tool & Die factory, a stone's throw from the U.S.-Canada border, stood vacant, a testament to the breakdown of North America's auto industry.

But last summer a group of former auto workers in Windsor, Ontario, a one-time Canadian car-making mecca just across the river from Detroit, rolled up their sleeves to scrape off the plant's decades of grime.

The aim wasn't to revive production of the auto machining parts the shop was once known for. Instead it got a new lease of life as a showroom and warehouse for the solar-power and solar water-heating systems sold by Green Sun Rising Inc, which is run by Klaus Dohring, who worked in the auto industry for 25 years.

Green Sun Rising, like dozens of other small businesses in Ontario, is taking advantage of the provincial government's Green Energy Act, which was put in place last year and pays the richest, long-term rates in North America for energy from renewable sources like the sun, wind and biomass.

The plan helps the Liberal government of Canada's most populous province meet a pledge to shut all coal-fired power stations by 2014.

Equally central to the plan is the creation of a manufacturing hub for equipment such as wind-turbine blades and solar-panel parts, which officials hope will spawn 50,000 jobs and revive areas hard hit by the near collapse of the North American-based auto industry two years ago.

"We started out the two of us, and immediately people found us. We weren't even looking for people, because we couldn't afford them," said Green Sun Rising vice president Tanja Nuske, Dohring's wife and co-founder of the company.